We’re continually on the hunt for experiences that add richness to our lives. In the spirit of the revival of road trips, we are proud to feature a monthly section featuring destinations within driving distance of Charleston. We feel that our smart and savvy readers will find these trips interesting and entertaining.
Fort Wayne, IN
Driving a little over five hours northwest of Charleston brings you to Fort Wayne, Indiana. Indiana’s second-largest city is a treasure trove of attractions and events that will surprise and astonish you. From housing the annual Vera Bradley sale to museums and outdoor attractions galore, you’re going to love this Midwestern city.
WHAT TO SEE & DO
Fort Wayne is a powerhouse of attractions, including the ACPL Genealogy Center. You’ll find the world’s largest database of public records and collection of family heritage resources on the second floor of the Allen County Public Library. Professional staff can help you trace your family history. You can also admire the hundreds of books, artifacts, statues, and artwork related to Abraham Lincoln.
Enjoy baseball and basketball in Fort Wayne. The Tincaps, a Class A minor league affiliate of the San Diego Padres, play at Parkview Field. Fort Wayne’s Mad Ants, the Indiana Pacers farm team, play at the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum. Tickets are affordable, and the games are fun and family-friendly.
Explore Fort Wayne’s artistic side through museums, gardens, and street art. The Fort Wayne Museum of Art has thought-provoking exhibits and a glass collection that is interesting and priceless. The museum’s Early Learning Center has plenty of hands-on activities for kids. Another great indoor place to explore is the Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory. Indoor gardens range from carefully labeled tropical flowers to desert succulents and a beautiful cascading waterfall. You’ll see vibrant murals around town, but my favorites are the panda (124 W Berry St) and buffalo (126 W Columbia St).
There are several unique local boutiques downtown, but the best-known shopping is the annual Vera Bradley Outlet Sale. This five-day event in April brings in thousands of shoppers from all over. Markdowns range in the 40-75% range, including accessories, handbags, luggage, and blankets, to name a few. Plan early; this event sells out quickly.
Kids will love the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo, where the habitats in the eyesight for little ones in strollers. The zoo’s programming and concepts are brilliant, plus you can see meerkats, Colobus monkeys, red pandas, Tasmanian devils, and a sea lion. Don’t miss walking through the Australian Adventure, where you are up close and personal with marsupials. Another place with kids in mind is the Fort Wayne Science Central, a whimsical and educational museum with hands-on exhibits and experiments, cutting-edge technology, and Science on a Sphere.
Riverfront Fort Wayne’s Promenade Park offers a spectacular place to walk around, be outdoors, and launch kayaks, paddleboards, and canoes, which can be rented steps away from Fort Wayne Outfitters. This unique riverfront property is where three rivers converge. Kids will love Allen County’s ten splash pads and three public pools. All in all, Fort Wayne has 120 miles of trails and 87 parks, so outdoors is a way of life there.
WHERE TO EAT AND DRINK
Fort Wayne is chock full of excellent restaurants. The Massaman Curries are flavorful and rich at Nawa, as are the Italian favorites (especially the Polpette- house-made meatballs) at Casa Ristoranti and creative pizza combinations (the Greeeen Slice is fantastic!) at 816 Pint & Slice.
Breakfast is delightful at Dash In, where the Avocado Toast is fresh and yummy, or Rise ‘N Roll for the unique sausage roll or mouth-watering doughnuts. Proximo is top-notch where the Carnita Benedict, Chilaquiles, and French Toast with macerated berries all tie for over-the-top breakfast plates.
Two of Fort Wayne’s most impressive restaurants are Tolon (those duck-fat fries!) and The Hoppy Gnome (Kimchi Chicken Fingers are supreme). Both feature farm-to-table and local ingredients along with chef-inspired culinary delights. Save room for dessert; they are worth splurging on. Other dessert suggestions in Fort Wayne include dipped cones at Zesto Ice Cream and handmade truffles, cookies, and chocolates at DeBrand Fine Chocolates.
Drop by one of Fort Wayne’s impressive breweries for great craft beer and delicious food, including the Chuck Roast Gnocchi from Junk Ditch Brewing Company and Caramelized Onion Dip with Veggies from Hop River Brewing Company.
WHERE TO STAY
There are hotels to fit every budget and location in Fort Wayne. The Hampton Inn & Suites FW Downtown affords ballpark views and is within walking distance to downtown. A complimentary breakfast is included, and they have a rooftop bar. The Hilton Fort Wayne, also a conference center, is my pick for a luxury hotel, even within walking distance to downtown. They feature a hotel shuttle with a reservation and have a Starbucks on the property.
Opening this month is The Bradley, Fort Wayne’s premier accommodations and brainchild of Barbara Baekgaard, co-founder of the iconic Vera Bradley brand. This 124-room boutique property is sure to be a sell-out due to its popularity and location near the riverfront.
UNCOVERING AN INDIANA GEM
Fort Wayne is an exceptional city that will be a great addition to your weekend travels; truly an Indiana gem.